Oysters! JT Cigarro Grille & Lounge offers a Fargo firstFARGO – JT Cigarro is bringing a touch of seafood to the North Dakota prairie. A few weeks ago, the bar opened its new JT Cigarro Grille & Lounge, which includes the area’s only oyster and martini bar. On the menu are unique offerings such as raw oysters but also plenty of other regular grill options.
FARGO – JT Cigarro is bringing a touch of seafood to the North Dakota prairie.
A few weeks ago, the bar opened its new JT Cigarro Grille & Lounge, which includes the area’s only oyster and martini bar. On the menu are unique offerings such as raw oysters but also plenty of other regular grill options.
“It’s an oyster-and-martini-bar theme, but we have everything else as well,” says Barrett Prody, who took over as owner of JT Cigarro earlier this year. “It’s a menu that should appeal to a very broad demographic.”
The Grille & Lounge is located in JT Cigarro’s former smoking room, which closed earlier this winter when Prody took over. Prody says he saw the new kitchen and grill as a better use of the space in the building.
“The cigar sales weren’t a real good utilization of the real estate. The food is a better partner with the bar,” he says, though he added that cigars are still available for purchase but must be smoked outside.
Oysters and more
In creating the grill’s new menu, Prody wanted to highlight something as unique to the Fargo-Moorhead area as JT Cigarro’s cigars were before.
Oysters, he decided, were exactly that.
“The oysters were something niche to market,” he says.
“There’s never been a spot to get that before in Fargo,” adds head chef Anthony Bachman, who came to JT Cigarro from Santa Lucia in Fargo.
JT Cigarro’s oyster menu offerings include items like fried oysters ($12), smoked oysters ($9) and BBQ oysters ($12).
If you want your oyster in drink form, the restaurant has that, too. Try the Classic Oyster Martini ($9), the Oyster Bloody Mary ($7.50) or an oyster tequila shot ($7.50).
If you haven’t tried oysters before, Bachman recommends starting with the smoked or fried options first. After some experience, you can work your way up to raw, which come in a plate of five for $15.
For those unfamiliar with raw oysters, the proper procedure for eating them is to use a small fork to remove the oyster from the shell, Bachman says. Pour the cocktail or sweet mignonette sauce over it, bring the shell up to your mouth and then – for lack of a better term – slurp it up.
Bachman admits it can be a pretty odd experience for those who haven’t done it before. That’s why, he adds with a laugh, “the raw are for the pros.”
Along those lines, Prody understands that oysters have a pretty small appeal, especially in a place like Fargo, and probably aren’t for everyone.
“It’s probably not something that people are going to want every day,” he says. “Oysters are an acquired taste. And it’s a smaller percentage of society that likes them.”
That’s why the grill’s menu has plenty of other food items, such as salads, sandwiches, hot wings and more, he says.
The Salmon BLT, for $11.95, is one of the most popular menu items so far.
The sandwich, made with a grilled salmon filet on toast and topped with bacon, mixed greens, tomatoes, caramelized shallots and chipotle mayo, has an attractive combination of tastes.
Another item that Bachman recommends is the JT Burger, topped with fried oysters, provolone cheese, bacon and spicy remoulade sauce for $9.95.
Nearly all of the grill’s food is made from scratch, Bachman says, and the seafood items like the oysters and salmon are served fresh. The oysters are ordered from a company in the Twin Cities that gets them from the East Coast.
Along with the regular menu, Bachman will also create lunch specials during the week, such as a Tater-Tot Hotdish Burger or a Mac-and-Cheese Burger that he recently made.
The lunch specials cost $7.95 and will be posted on JT Cigarro’s Facebook page in advance.
In addition, the new Grille & Lounge also has a small bar, where patrons can order martinis and other mixed drinks. A selection of bottled beer is also available.
JT Cigarro doesn’t take reservations for the Grille & Lounge area, which seats 53 people, though diners can order food in other parts of the building as well. The kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
In the few weeks that it’s been open, Prody thinks that the Grille & Lounge has so far created a better overall atmosphere at the establishment.
“There was a real segmented feel before, with the smoking room,” he says. “Now, the grill has a good relaxation feel.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535